The region’s representative on the Commonwealth Transportation Board failed Wednesday in an attempt to transfer money set aside for the Western Bypass of U.S. 29 to other projects in the state.
Charlottesville Tomorrow reviewed an audio recording of the monthly CTB meeting held at the Sheraton Premier Tyson’s Corner in Vienna.
“We’re sitting here in the important part of the golden crescent, the economic engine of the Commonwealth here in Northern Virginia,” said James Rich, the Culpeper District representative on the CTB. “We’ve heard about the dire situation for funding. There isn’t any. We have nothing left for new construction.”
Current projections show that Virginia will run out of money for new construction projects by 2017. Rich, who has consistently opposed the bypass since it was revived in the spring of 2011, said the state had to spend the remaining transportations dollars as wisely as possible.
Rich offered a motion to transfer $100 million from the bypass and transfer it to the $6.8 billion project to extend the Metro to Dulles airport. In 2005, the CTB voted to double the toll on the Dulles Greenway in order to help pay for the extension.
“We’ve got this very important Dulles rail project which serves the technology center here,” Rich said. “The Commonwealth really isn’t putting much into it. This has been on the backs of poor men and women commuters are paying this toll.”
After another CTB member seconded the motion, the Secretary of Transportation weighed in.
“It’s completely inappropriate to bring this up,” said Sean Connaughton. “You can’t just transfer these types of funds from highway funds over to Metro.”
Connaughton said Rich did not understand the complexities involved in the Metro extension project.
“I really don’t appreciate you raising this in that context,” Connaughton said. “This is something I’ve had to live for the last two and a half years of very difficult issues with this project. There are some things going on with that project right now that I’m privy to that we’re going to have some very good news shortly.”
Connaughton said the CTB has already awarded a contract for the bypass which locks the funding in place.
“You can’t turn around and then turn around and take the money away from the project or we will be in some serious legal issues,” Connaughton said.
Connaughton pointed out that the bypass is supported by the Charlottesville Metropolitan Planning Organization, by the Albemarle Board of Supervisors, and members of the community.
“The vast majority of the people support that project,” Connaughton said.
Rich countered the Charlottesville City Council is opposed to the project, the current membership of the Board of Supervisors is split on its support, and that the constituents he has spoken with are all opposed to it.
“I have been watching the Dulles rail thing very closely and I know how important it is to the economic health of Northern Virginia and entire Commonwealth,” Rich said.
To try to garner support for his motion, Rich offered to amend it to include money for the Midtown Tunnel in Hampton Roads, a project that will also be paid for through tolls.
Connaughton said he did think that Robert’s Rules of Order would allow Rich to bring up such a motion, but he allowed the vote anyway. Everyone voted against the motion except Rich.